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June 2014
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August 2014

The Last Days Of Limehouse

"Save the clock tower!" No, wait, that's the other one.Less than a week has elapsed since it all started going wrong, but I think it's safe to say that more or less every possible angle on the Secret Cinema Back To The Future debacle has already been covered elsewhere. I thought I had a new one myself, and originally the whole of this first paragraph was based around it. And then I had to bin it when I decided, just to be on the safe side, to see if anyone else had recently used the phrase "your cousin Marvin Cinema."

Nevertheless, here's an angle that might be of interest to the lost hordes left wandering around Hackney in fifties gear after the BTTF cancellations. Because right now, in another part of East London, there's a second theatrical promenade production which immersively recreates 1950s life inside a found space. Yellow Earth's The Last Days Of Limehouse, however, has been made by people who know what the hell they're doing.

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A Man (or two) From The Future

Neil Tennant and Chris Lowe. Well, at least *one* of them made an effort to dress up.One of the occasional features that appears in Private Eye is National Treasures, in which they highlight misuses of the title phrase in the UK press. It's the sort of thing that's made Private Eye a national treasure itself, albeit one with a slightly queasy attitude towards homosexuals.

Like one of those people who writes a 400-word sentence that concludes with the clause “and I bet this ends up in Pseud's Corner,” I'm going to grit my teeth and call it: the Pet Shop Boys are a national treasure. They'd deserve the title even if all they'd done was produce the most consistently excellent British pop music for three decades straight. But they've never been afraid to stretch out into areas way beyond their comfort zone: a West End musical, a silent movie soundtrack, an operatic arena show, a ballet score, and the most pretentious pop film of all time. Their latest experiment is A Man From The Future, a concert piece for orchestra, choir, electronics and narrator, given its world premiere last night at the Royal Albert Hall as Prom number 8. And to bring us full circle, it's a piece about the making of another national treasure.

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Monty Python Live (mostly)

I think this might just be low quality enough for me to get away with it.How much of a Monty Python fan was I back in the day? Enough of one to know all the usual sketches by heart. Enough of one to own most of the records and books. Maybe going that extra geek mile further in some areas. (Do you know why Always Look On The Bright Side Of Life ends with the spoken line "I said to them, Bernie, I said, they'll never make their money back"? Well, I do.)

Was I at the O2 for their farewell show last weekend? Well, kind of. But it took me a while to make my mind up.

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Pika Pika Fantajin

Click here for official proof that I'm cooler than you. (I'm going to need it once you see the 1998 version of the site.)It's July 14th, 2014: this website is exactly sixteen years old today. (If you weren't around for day one, this - horrifyingly - is what it used to look like.) It's also exactly eight years since I moved the whole operation over from Demon Internet to Typepad, as discussed at the time. So, happy birthday to me twice over, I guess.

A website that's effectively reached the age of consent (ew) should be far too grown-up to be thinking about fluffy pop music for kids. But here we are, noting that J-pop icon Kyary Pamyu Pamyu has just released Pika Pika Fantajin, her third album, across most countries in the civilised world. This is incredibly unusual, considering the Galapagos-style environment in which Japanese pop music traditionally operates. It may also be partially my fault.

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Simian Substitute Site For July 2014: MonkeyParking


Internet: Since 2009 - more precisely, since just before I went here - I've owned a dinky little Dell netbook that I use for internet access whenever I'm on holiday. Over the years, as I've added more and more unneccessary software to it, it's got slower and slower. (A machine this small probably wasn't intended for video editing, but there you go.) Something had to give eventually, and the tipping point came this April, when Microsoft took the netbook's operating system out back and shot it through the head. I took this as a cue to do something I've been meaning to try for a while: wipe Windows off the box altogether, and install Ubuntu in its place. All the things they say about it are true: it's free (obviously), lightweight, and a lot faster than Windows XP ever was. As long as you just need the basic functionality of web surfing and document production - which I do - then it should hopefully stay that way. As my Moderately Responsible Job In The Computer Industry has involved various flavours of Unix over the years, the basic install wasn't too traumatic, although one little niggly problem involving audio files playing too fast took me the best part of a fortnight to sort out. Unfortunately, the various online forums relating to Ubuntu support issues can be a nightmare to navigate, and all too often it seems that the most popular response to a problem is 'you posted that in the wrong category, please try again'. Still, there are some terrific resources out there for newcomers - this one was particularly useful - and after about four or five tries this command turned out to be the solution to my sound problems.

Theatre: I've somehow managed to get through my entire adult life without reading a single book by P.G. Wodehouse. So I'm probably the wrong person to tell you if the current West End hit, Jeeves and Wooster in Perfect Nonsense, is a faithful adaptation of the man's work. It feels right, though. I think that what makes it successful is that it matches Wodehouse's verbal wit with a delightful visual playfulness, revelling in its own arch theatricality: part of that has to be down to director Sean Foley, who's been doing this sort of thing on stage ever since his days with The Right Size. Adaptors David and Robert Goodale have taken the novel The Code Of The Woosters as a basic framework upon which to hang cameo appearances by a dozen or so of Wodehouse's regulars, all played by a cast of three. You've just missed the chance to see Robert Webb as Wooster (whose not-as-bright-as-he-thinks-he-is comic persona maps onto the character quite neatly) and Mark Heap as Jeeves (after years of low-key ensemble work in numerous comedies, it's lovely to see him getting some limelight for a change). Right now, the lead roles are being taken by James Lance and John Gordon Sinclair - they'll be at the Duke of York's theatre till September 30th and then touring the country after that. Not sure how they'll be playing it, but the production and writing are both strong enough to survive cast changes, so it's still worth catching.

Travel: I was back in Sweden again a couple of weeks ago, my third visit to the country this year. The last two trips were based in Stockholm, but this time I got to take the commuter plane from there to Karlskrona in the south of the country. Mid-June turns out to be an interesting time to visit Sweden, thanks to Studentvecka, in which the country's students celebrate the end of the academic year by wearing sailor hats, getting blind drunk and holding occasionally excessive parades. It's all rather jolly, unless you're staying in a hotel just down the road from a bar that students are drinking in till four in the morning. Still, you can't blame them - Karlskrona is pretty damn good for booze halls, from a fake English pub with craft beers on tap to a tremendous bar attached to the local cinema. Don't worry, food is also available, from Italian joints to cosy cafes. Apart from that, there's not too much to see (except for the Naval Museum, which I couldn't find time for), but it's an enjoyable enough town to stroll around, and there's a walking route map available from the tourist office if you want hints on which way you should be strolling. Anyway, how could you not love a town that sells vintage English clothing out of a shop called Neat Monkey?

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